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Osmo Vänskä /// Music Director

Annual Review

Minnesota Orchestra 2016-2017 Annual Report

Triumphant performances, community collaborations and musical tributes

Press release Download report PDF

The Minnesota Orchestra’s 2016-17 season was a year in which the Orchestra launched a new Mahler recording project, toured the state of Minnesota, extended Music Director Osmo Vänskä’s contract, piloted its first Young People’s Concert webcast—and achieved a balanced budget for the third consecutive year. Read these highlights and many more in our 2016-17 Annual Report.

“There was nothing routine...about the performance [of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony].... Vänskä, always an animated figure at the podium, looked on this occasion to be in constant motion, urging the musicians to deliver ever-bigger, ever-more-vivid sound, as if his life depended on the outcome; and the orchestra...responded with 86 minutes of precise, artfully sculpted, cohesive playing.” —Michael Anthony, Star Tribune, June 18, 2017

A Great Virtuoso Orchestra

A Great Virtuoso Orchestra

The Minnesota Orchestra showed great virtuosity and great versatility during the 2016-17 season, with Music Director Osmo Vänskä guiding a year that featured four centuries of repertoire ranging from Handel to Hollywood to hip-hop. Among high points were a subscription-season opener with violinist Joshua Bell; performances of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony with the Minnesota Chorale; a halftime mini-concert at the Minnesota Vikings home opener for which musicians including Principal Bass Kristen Bruya entered the field to a rock star’s welcome; performances of Copland’s Lincoln Portrait with retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan C. Page narrating; and the release of two acclaimed albums, including the first in a Mahler symphony project, which was honored with a Grammy nomination for Best Orchestral Performance in November 2017. Cheers greeted the news that Vänskä’s contract was extended through 2022.

“The recording of the Mahler Fifth is, in a word, revelatory.” —Classical Voice, August 22, 2017

Farewells and Tributes

Farewells and Tributes

The season will also be recalled as one of tributes and sad farewells. Former Music Director Sir Neville Marriner passed away in October at age 92; three months later, concerts he had been scheduled to conduct instead became tributes to his memory, with Courtney Lewis leading the repertoire Marriner had chosen. Conductor Laureate and former Music Director Stanislaw Skrowaczewski led two moving Bruckner performances in October that proved to be his last in the Hall he inaugurated in 1974; he died in February at age 93. The Orchestra saluted the late Minnesota composer Stephen Paulus with a performance of his Mass for a Sacred Place, and mourned the passing of Life Director Nicky Carpenter and Directors Emeritus Hella Mears Hueg and Dolly Fiterman. Carpenter and Fiterman are shown here with Principal Cello Anthony Ross in 2004.

Stars Light up the Hall

Stars Light Up the Hall

Musical stars in all genres visited Orchestra Hall throughout the season. Among prominent names on the classical subscription series were violinists Joshua Bell and Leila Josefowicz, and cellists Yo-Yo Ma and Alisa Weilerstein—the last of whom also joined the Orchestra on a three-city Florida tour. The Live at Orchestra Hall series, led by conductor Sarah Hicks, was headlined by stage and screen star Kristin Chenoweth, Grammy-winners the Okee Dokee Brothers, R&B icons Boyz II Men and, in her Orchestra debut, Minnesota-grown singer-rapper-writer Dessa, who took audiences on a memorable musical journey of love, heartbreak and perseverance.

Connecting to the community

An Electric Connection to the Community

The 2016-17 season brought the Orchestra into its community and vice versa. Shiloh Temple International Ministries welcomed the Orchestra to its north Minneapolis home, where Associate Conductor Roderick Cox led a collaborative concert that featured the Orchestra and Shiloh soloists, dancers and choirs. Cox also led the Orchestra on a Common Chords State Tour to Willmar, Bemidji and Grand Rapids. Chamber ensembles served as musical envoys in the Twin Cities community, as a brass quintet delivered the national anthem before the Twins home opener, while Pint of Music brought small groups to six brewpubs. At Minnesota Orchestra Fantasy Camp, 51 amateur musicians rehearsed and performed alongside Orchestra musicians at Orchestra Hall, where First Associate Concertmaster Susie Park shared a light moment with participant Julie Lin.

Musicians in the spotlight

Our Musicians in the Spotlight

Orchestra musicians taking turns in the solo spotlight included Concertmaster Erin Keefe, Principal Second Violin Peter McGuire, Principal Cello Anthony Ross, Principal Flute Adam Kuenzel, flutist Wendy Williams, Principal Horn Michael Gast, horn player Brian Jensen and Principal Harp Kathy Kienzle. Trumpet player Charles Lazarus starred in a “Merry and Bright” holiday show, while violist Sam Bergman continued as host of the audience-favorite Inside the Classics series, with Sarah Hicks conducting. Associate Conductor Roderick Cox made his subscription debut, earning acclaim and becoming a social-media phenomenon via a concert clip seen by millions worldwide. Chamber and NightCap performances showcased small ensembles in the Target Atrium. New Orchestra musicians included Principal Clarinet Gabriel Campos Zamora, Associate Principal Cello Silver Ainomäe, violinist Sarah Grimes and Principal Librarian Maureen Conroy.

“Privileged as always to hear these first-rate performances in my home city!” — Andrew Keller, @akeller4265 on Instagram | #MNorch

Today and Tomorrow

Today and Tomorrow

The Orchestra kept an eye on the future by championing contemporary music and establishing new traditions. Composer-performer Claudio Puntin premiered his own Clarinet Concerto, and seven young composers were on hand for the Future Classics concert and Composer Institute—in its third year under Kevin Puts’ leadership. New audiences turned out in droves for Campus Nights, and for film music concerts, including screenings of the first Harry Potter film with John Williams’ score played live. Pianist Jeremy Walker enlisted jazz stars, including bassist Jeff Bailey, in the Jazz in the Target Atrium series. OH+ activities engaged audiences in the lobby and established new and lasting partnerships with dozens of local organizations.

Education initiatives

A Foundation of Education

Young People’s (YP) Concerts, led by Roderick Cox, engaged tens of thousands of students at Orchestra Hall, and many more worldwide accessed the first-ever YP Concert video webcast. The Orchestra visited three high schools for Symphonic Adventures concerts, and worked alongside students at Side-by-Side Rehearsals with MYS and GTCYS youth orchestras, as Principal Clarinet Gabriel Campos Zamora offered advice for his student stand partner. Key volunteer organizations also served students, including YPSCA, which provided volunteer ushers and funding for select schools’ tickets and busing, and FRIENDS of the Minnesota Orchestra, which offered Kinder Konzerts and lobby activities at Family Concerts, among numerous other initiatives. Clarinetists Jonathan Cohen and Anders Peterson, past winners of YPSCA and FRIENDS competitions, made solo debuts at YP Concerts. The Orchestra collaborated with students from ComMUSICation, Ascension School and Harvest Preparatory School through an Arts Access program funded by the Minnesota State Arts Board.

Summer concerts

Summer Celebrations

Sommerfest Artistic Director Andrew Litton was celebrated as he concluded his record-setting 15-year tenure as the festival’s leader; summer highlights included a Gershwin collaboration with dancers from New York City Ballet, a visit from eminent pianist André Watts, and a finale of Strauss’ provocative opera Salome—a Sommerfest first. The Orchestra saluted another key figure in its history, Pops Conductor Laureate Doc Severinsen—flanked above by Principal Trumpet Manny Laureano and Charles Lazarus—with a pair of 90th birthday concerts showcasing Doc’s masterful skills as a trumpet soloist, conductor and storyteller. Roderick Cox led four Symphony for the Cities concerts in the great outdoors, drawing large crowds to venues including the Hilde Performance Center in Plymouth.

“...the Minnesota Orchestra honored [Litton’s] 15 years’ service with playing of thrilling commitment and viscerality.” —Star Tribune, August 6, 2017

Symphony Ball 2017

Symphony Ball 2017

The 2017 Symphony Ball was a fabulous success, raising $1.4 million—the most in the Ball’s 61-year history—thanks to the contributions of the many committed people who invested their time and energy on the Symphony Ball Committee, led by Co-Chairs Paula DeCosse, Laurie Hodder Greeno and MaryAnn Goldstein, shown here to the right of Marilyn Carlson Nelson, who became the Orchestra’s Board Chair in December. Under the direction of Osmo Vänskä, the Orchestra performed a custom created Silk Road Symphonic Fantasy, then was joined onstage by special guest Dessa.

Thank you to our audiences and donors for their wholehearted support which has made the achievements of the past season possible.

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